Eddie Jones has selected the uncapped flanker Brad Shields for the summer tour of South Africa after New Zealand granted “special exception” before hitting out at the Rugby Football Union, insisting it was “extremely disappointed” with England for pursuing the Hurricanes captain.
Jones has also handed a recall to Danny Cipriani as well as call-ups for Cameron Redpath, the 18-year-old son of the former Scotland international Bryan, Dan Robson, Jack Willis, Ben Spencer, Ben Earl and Jonny Hill to his 34-man squad.
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Owen Farrell has been confirmed as captain in Dylan Hartley’s injury-enforced absence and Billy Vunipola makes a return, having missed the Six Nations, while Jones has rested a number of senior players in what is his most radical squad selection to date following a run of three straight defeats. Including Shields there are eight uncapped players in total while James Haskell, Danny Care and Dan Cole are among the players omitted. They, along with Manu Tuilagi, are among 20 players considered “available” by Jones but Don Armand is not and can therefore count himself unlucky to miss out.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) released a sternly-worded statement just hours before England confirmed Shields’ selection, in which the head of professional rugby, Chris Lendrum, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the RFU chose to take this unusual step in seeking this release given that Brad has not yet played rugby in England.”
Speaking to TVNZ, Lendrum later added: “it is not a decision we would have made, Brad hasn’t yet played any rugby in the English jurisdiction. It seems highly unusual that they can’t find players within their own county to pick.”
NZR also reiterated its belief that it had “clear legal grounds” to deny Shields release but the RFU has always maintained that the player was always available in accordance with World Rugby regulations. The Guardian revealed last month that Jones would have the green light to pick Shields despite the fact that he may play up to six Hurricanes matches after the tour of South Africa before joining Wasps next season. The RFU believes that the fact that Shields has agreed a move to the Premiership means he is not captured by their policy of refusing to pick players based outside England.
Cipriani meanwhile, returns to the England fold for the first time since the summer of 2015, having last featured during a World Cup warm-up match against France. He last started for England in 2008 but his selection can be considered reward for a fine finish to the season, including a man-of-the-match performance for Wasps against Newcastle last week.